A new group called Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action are taking legal action to appeal the decision to allow the Narrabri coal mine to be expanded.
The group, founded after the Tathra district bushfire on the south coast of NSW in 2018, is arguing that approving new fossil fuel projects and expansions is unreasonable given what is known about the threat of climate change and climate impacts that we are already experiencing. They are in court this week appealing an Independent Planning Commission (IPC) decision to approve a Whitehaven application to expand its Narrabri coal mine in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The approval extends the life of the mine from 2031 to 2044 and allows the continuation of some 500 jobs at the mine.
BSCA spokesperson Fiona Lee, who lost her home to a bushfire in 2019, said the IPC’s approval of the coal mine showed that planning decisions had not kept up with community expectations, and the need to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Continuing to allow coal mines to expand – especially highly polluting ones – has a direct impact on Australians’ safety and security,” Ms Lee said.
“The burning of coal, gas and oil worsens the impacts of climate change, and we are already seeing bushfires and other extreme weather increase in frequency and intensity because of climate change.”
“Now is the time to support our rural communities to transition away from coal and focus on building sustainable, prosperous alternatives.”
BSCA will argue that it is legally unreasonable for the NSW government to approve this super polluting mine, and unreasonable to find that the mine is in the public interest.
Speaking to The Guardian last April when the expansion was approved, Whitehaven Coal’s managing director and chief executive Paul Flynn said the approval was a “great outcome for the company and the hundreds of employees working at the mine”.
“While [the approval] is a great result for Whitehaven, it’s fantastic for the Narrabri region too – last financial year Whitehaven spent nearly $50m with around 81 suppliers based in Narrabri,” Flynn said.
In approving the expansion the IPC noted that most of the submissions received from Narrabri locals were supportive of the project going ahead.
The hearing, which started yesterday, is scheduled to run until tomorrow.
Top image: leaders of BSCA outside the court in Sydney yesterday (supplied)